Ipswich hedgehogs are now on YouTube!

Want to see the secret lives of Ipswich hedgehogs, badgers, foxes and mice uncovered? Subscribe to our new YouTube channel for amusing and enlightening videos recorded on our night hedgehog cameras placed around Ipswich! Subscribe by clicking here.

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A wonderfully wild Ipswich Christmas party!

A big thank you to everyone that came to our Christmas bash at Holywells Park last weekend, we loved having the opportunity to thank our volunteers, champions and event participants for their involvement this year, and to introduce our work to some new faces.

The event kicked off with a speech from Ipswich mayor, Sarah Barber, introducing the brilliant work many organisations across the town do for wildlife, and to celebrate some of the work SWT have been doing in Ipswich: our hedgehog project and Closer to Nature project.

 

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Myself and Lucy with Ipswich Mayor, Sarah Barber

Closer to Nature is a three year project that aims to inspire a new generation of young naturalists, headed up by Ipswich education ranger, Lucy Shepherd. We were excited to share our project successes and aims for the coming year. Amazingly, between our two projects, we have had a contribution of 1419 hours contributed by volunteers, and their time and expertise have been invaluable in the delivery of these projects, an equivalent of an amazing 203 working days!

We followed the mayors speech with mince pies and cakes, tree decoration crafts, bird feeder making, quizzes and trails, and we were lucky enough to also be joined by Greenways Project, Ipswich Wildlife Group and Friends of Holywells Park who were creating wildlife homes and other festive crafts (such as amazing wooden reindeer) and providing much needed hot drinks on this crisp winters day!

 

A very festive day all round!

A big thank you for everyone involved with our projects to date, and we look forward to seeing you at our events and activities next year!

 

Wildlife ambassador Autumn activities!

Last week myself and Urban Buzz Officer David headed to Sidegate Primary School for some Autumn activities – hedgehog house building and wild flower sowing! We welcomed two new wildlife ambassadors from year 1 to replace those that had moved to secondary school this year, and split the group into two, with each having a go at one activity before swapping over. Two hedgehog houses were built, and lots of wild flowers sown!

 The wildlife ambassadors in action – photos by Matt Brown

Houses were built in two sheltered locations in which we had located hedgehog footprints earlier in the year, and the perrenial wild flower seeds were sown along a large strip that had been cleared by a JCB earlier in the week. Seeds were distributed in handfulls of sand, and the ambassadors will be ensuring they keep well watered in the coming weeks. Let’s hope they attract lots of pollinators and bring a real urban buzz to the school grounds! The top layer of grass and soil removed has been heaped in the corner ready for a new project for the wildlife ambassadors – the creation of a large hibernaculum.

We carefully arranged bricks, an old roofing tile and lots of logs along two fence lines, then gathered lots of fallen oak leaves to make sure the structures were nice and camouflage. It might be a bit late for hedgehogs to use this winter, but who knows, perhaps it will be found next year!

More information about the Urban Buzz project can be found here and tips for helping hedgehogs in the Autumn, here.

 

 

 

 

Hedgehog Highways for Ipswich MP Sandy Martin

Last week myself and colleague Olly met our Labour MP for Ipswich, Sandy Martin. Sandy has recently confirmed his commitment to local environmental issues by signing the Greener UK MP’s Environment Pledge and was also keen to support our local hedgehog campaign. We took the opportunity to visit Sandys garden to ensure it was nice and hedgehog friendly, and created two hedgehog-sized holes in his fences, linking Sandys garden to his two neighbours.

Lack of access to gardens is a major issue for hedgehogs and every new hedgehog fence hole adds much needed habitat.

Sandy has assured us he’ll be on the look out for visiting hedgehogs, and will continue to keep his garden nice and ‘hog friendly!

Hibernating hedgehogs – how can you help at this time of year?

The leaves are turning amazing colours and the temperature certainly feels to be dropping. It’s that time of year again, the nights are drawing in and hedgehogs will be beginning to think about bedding down for the winter.

Hibernation is a flexible process and is influenced by temperature. Hedgehogs tend to begin hibernation when it is consistently below 10 degrees. Although it feels chilly to us, this weeks average temperatures are actually between 13-16 degrees, so there’s still time for hedgehogs to fatten up and prepare for the winter ahead.

There’s a few things you can do to help hedgehogs prepare at this time of year. Ensuring there are nesting and feeding opportunities in your garden will certainly help. Log piles, large shrubs and gaps under sheds are all places that hedgehogs are likely to  be scouting out as potential nesting sites. Keeping leaves on the ground, rather than tidying them away, and building wild areas with log piles will be a huge help. Hedgehogs need lots of medium sized leaves (oak and beech size) to gather for their nest.

                                Log piles, wild areas and leaf piles around Ipswich

Log and leaf piles will also encourage the invertebrates hedgehogs will be snuffling about trying to find. You can give them a helping hand by leaving out a dish of meaty cat or dog food, and a shallow dish of water. This will be especially helpful for young hoglets needing to gain weight to survive the winter.

You could even try building a nest site for a hedgehog. There are some great guides out there, I particularly like Wildlife Gadget mans How-to guides. He has a brick design and plastic box design.

                       Here are some hedgehog houses already in-situ around Ipswich

Remember, any time of year is good for creating Hedgehog Highways. Why not take some time over the Autumn to ensure hedgehogs can wander into your garden? Hedgehog holes are very easy to make, and will ensure your garden is accessible for a foraging or nesting hedgehog!

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Let us know if you have made a Hedgehog Highway. Ipswich residents that send a photo to hedgehogs@suffolkwildlifetrust.org can receive a free Hedgehog Street Hedgehog Highway plaque to display in their garden. Keep logging your hedgehog sightings too. Head to our online map, here.

 

Mammal Detectives – looking for signs of hedgehogs and other elusive critters!

Last week we headed to Alexandra Park in Ipswich to look for signs of hedgehogs and other small mammals!

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The evening before, myself and hedgehog volunteer Ian ventured around the park in search of good spots for our footprint tunnels. We set out ten in total, running along fence lines and hedgerows around the perimeter of the park.

Once these were set we had a good old rummage in the foliage in search of signs of latrines and feeding signs of small mammals. As you might expect, we had a few confused looks from local dog walkers, which, after explaining what we were doing, didn’t always seem less confused by the situation.

The next morning myself and a group of local families went round the park to see if the footprint tunnels had been used, and to see what other signs of mammals we could find.

Eight out of ten tunnels were full of small mammal footprints and droppings. We found old field vole feeding remains amongst the long grass (and a beautiful wasp spider!), a wood mouse food store in the hollow of a tree, nuts cracked open and pine cones nibbled by squirrels.

Unfortunately we didn’t find any signs of hedgehog this time – fingers crossed for our next park detective event in October half term. We’ll be looking for signs of hedgehogs and other mammals in Chantry Park on Tuesday 24th October. Spaces are limited so please book onto this event by heading to our website here.

 

 

How to make a hedgehog footprint tunnel

Footprint tunnels are probably the best way to detect hedgehogs, they are easy to make and are lots of fun to use! Why not have a go at making one to see what wildlife is visiting your garden? This is a quick guide, but more detail can be found in the People’s Trust for Endangered Species and British Hedgehog Preservation Society survey handbook.

Making footprint tunnels3Step 1. Sheets of short flute (4mm) corrugated plastic (dimensions: 123x100cm) can be purchased online. One sheet with the above dimensions will make one footprint tunnel.

Step 2. A section measuring 21cm wide and 100cm long should be cut away from the rest, using a Stanley knife. This will be the insert panel that will contain the food, ink and paper. The remainder of the sheet can be split equally into four sections (each section roughly measuring 100cm x 25.5cm) and scored with something pointed but not sharp (you don’t want to cut these, just bend). Bend along each of these lines to make the pyramid shaped tunnel that can be seen in the middle photo below.

 

Making footprint tunnels

Step 3. Strips of Velcro can now be attached to hold the tunnel into the pyramid shape. Paper can be paper clipped to each end of the insert panel and masking tape wrapped around the panel above the plain paper at each end. The masking tape strip is where the ink should be painted. Ink can be made my mixing food grade carbon powder with vegetable oil.

We have footprint tunnels and wildlife cameras available for Ipswich residents to borrow. For more information, head to our website pages here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christchurch Park Mammal Morning!

Last Saturday morning myself and a group of enthusiastic participants were up bright and early to go in search of elusive mammals in Christchurch park. The evening before, myself and volunteer Ian had set up 20 Longworth traps and 10 footprint tunnels around the park, and thankfully we only had a few traps left to set as the rain began to fall!

Longworth traps are a survey method used for small mammal population studies as they safely trap mice, voles and shrews in the nest chamber of the trap (full of hay, bird seed, apple and casters), ready to be identified (and sometime marked) in the morning.  Casters are a critical ingredient, as these will satisfy any shrews that are trapped – these insectivores need to eat every few hours to survive!

Footprint tunnels are the main survey method for detecting hedgehogs. They contain food, ink and paper, so that any animals enticed in by the food leave behind their footprints for us to identify!

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We were very pleased to find a young bank vole in the first of our traps, though he/she didn’t fancy sticking around for long, so unfortunately we didn’t manage to sex it. The rest of the traps were empty, but we did find lots of signs of small mammals in the footprint tunnels, with 9/10 tunnels containing teeny tiny footprints.

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We will be running further mammal detective events around Ipswich parks in the coming months, so keep an eye on our Whats On (type ‘hedgehog’ into the search bar for our project events!).  In September we will also be conducting a five night hedgehog survey in Christchurch park to obtain a high level of confidence of hedgehog presence or absence from the park. If you’d like to be involved, please email hedgehogs@suffolkwildlifetrust.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An easy way to detect hedgehogs – by looking for poo!

The best way to initially get an indicator of hedgehog activity in your garden, is to look for their poo!

Hedgehog poo is quite distinctive because of their diet. Each dropping is jam packed full of shiny bits of beetle and other invertebrates and seeds, so it is very textured.

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It’s very dark and can vary in size, but is generally the size of the tip of your little finger.Hedgehog poo

You may have a hedgehog visiting and not even realise! Why not have a scout about the garden to see if you can see any signs!

 

 

Random acts of wildness – my #30dayswild!

The Wildlife Trust’s #30DaysWild campaign is probably my favourite conservation campaign going. It’s so important that people appreciate and love nature, after all, it’s this connection that will enthuse everyone to save it! I tend to already spend a lot of my time in the great outdoors, but I love this campaign because it pushes me to get out even more, even if I feel like I don’t have time. There’s always time to squeeze some nature into your day!

There’s lots of ways to have random acts of wildness, purely to enjoy wildlife and the environment, or to help it at the same time! Did you take part in the 30 Days Wild Challenge? It’s not too late if not, why not pick a month and have ago yourself?

Day 1: For the first day of the challenge I had a very busy day in the wildlife area of the Suffolk Show, talking all things hedgehog! I managed to wiz round the trail and visit some of the cool animals Ipswich Wildlife Ranger David had brought along, including a lovely stag beetle, the first I’d ever seen!

Day 2: I decided to go in search of water voles! After work off I went and was rewarded by  a very close encounter of a water vole munching on some vegetation around 1m away from me!

Day 3: This weekend I was heading to the Peak District on a rock climbing trip. I spent the evening star gazing whilst bivvying on a boulder overlooking the hills of Derbyshire (a bivvy is a water proof sleeve for your sleeping bag, so that you can sleep with your head fully out to appreciate the sky at night – glorious!)

Day 4: A beautiful sunrise from the bivvy boulder before starting the day!

Day 5: My garden is very wild! I decided to spend some time identifying the wildflowers in it. I was amazed by how many I found once I started looking, lots with such lovely and colourful flowers.

Day 6: A quick stop off at Bourne Park after work to wander around and, of course, climb a tree!

Day 7: A new Ipswich park for me at lunch time – a quick wander round Alexandra Park, admiring the water front view from the hill and watching a lovely flock of long tailed tits.

Day 8: Today I checked hedgehog footprint tunnels with Sidegate Primary wildlife ambassadors and inspected lots of bugs during a bug hunt! After work I headed to a new park in Ipswich (Gippeswyk park) and admired some lovely trees including a wonderous weeping willow billowing in the breeze.

 

Day 9: This morning I was up bright and early to check my garden moth trap. I always find this incredibly exciting as I never know what species I might find!

Day 10: I chased some very noisy oystercatchers down the estuary on a nice sunny walk, cooling my feet in the river and reading my book on the river beach! That evening I headed to our Big Wildlife Count Night Safari, admired whizzing bats, beautiful moths and lots of tiny toadlets before slinging my hammock up in a tree for the night.

Day 11: Today was an early start to check the mammal traps and footprint tunnels as part of our Big Wildlife Count at Kiln Meadow. Unfortunately no mammals in the traps, but we did get some small rodent footprint in our of our tunnels! Later we emptied the moth traps (some beautiful moths including a lovely buff tip) and headed out on a reptile walk where we were rewarded with tonnes of grass snakes, some slow worms and a lizard!

Day 12: A quick trip to my favourite river beach to admire the Orwell river views.

Day 13: I downloaded the Bee App for the Great British Bee Count and started uploading records after a lunch time survey in the office garden. I spotted red tailed bumblebees, carder bees and white-tailed bumblebee species.

Day 14. Today was a busy day of work before heading on a long old drive to North Wales for a holiday in the mountains! We didn’t arrive until late, so the days wild activity involved putting up a tent in the dark before admiring some MASSIVE slugs that were covering the outdoor sinks.

Day 15: A scramble up Tryfan mountain, admiring the mountainous views and finding unexpected wildlife, like a frog sitting on a rock. Some rock climbing in a nearby nature reserve created some very exciting encounters with Hummingbird Hawkmoths!

Day 16. A second ascent of Tryfan to try a new scramble route and a bivvy on a lovely mossy ledge near the base of the mountain, an evening spent admiring the mountainous views and atmospheric clouds billowing in as darkness fell!

Day 17. More mountain admiration as we spent the day scrambling the southern horseshoe ridgeline around the quieter peaks of Snowdonia.

Day 18. A lovely sea swim followed by some rock climbing, where I happened across a feral pigeon nest in a rock crevice up a cliff, containing two rather plump chicks!

Day 19. My first time in a bee suit as I was invited to check some bee hives. It was rather sweltering in the heat, but brilliant seeing all of the honey bees at work, and we even spotted the queens!

Day 20. This morning a baby starling came hurtling into the conservatory, flapping full pelt at the window to get out! I caught (quickly admired him up close!) then released it into the garden!

Day 21. Summer Solstice! I hadn’t made any plans for the solstice, so decided to camp out in the garden and admire the stars for the night!

Day 22. This morning I awoke in my sleeping bag lying amongst the long long grass in my garden! Another gloriously sunny day!

Day 23. I decided to join a Woodbridge Wildlife Group guided walk in blaxhall common to look for nightjars and glow worms. Unfortunately no glow worms found, but we did hear lots of mechanical churring from the nightjars, and saw one fly across the heath!

Day 24. An exploration of the Ipswich river footpath out of town. Here I found lots of urban wildlife, including these great cinnabar and drinker moth caterpillars.

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Day 25. Today Team Hedgehog walked the Orwell 25 – a 25 mile walk along the Orwell Estuary, to raise awareness and funds for hedgehogs! We saw lots of house martins, a lesser stag beetle, heard turtle doves and I learnt how to identify two plants, Hare’s-foot Clover and Dittander.

Day 26. I was too achey to walk too far for todays random act of wildness, so I decided to admire the lovely blue sky and have a go at identifying the different cloud formations.

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Day 27. Today I had a quick rummage around the garden and found lots of garden spider nests full of spiderlings, one in the grass with webbing wrapped round lots of grass and clover, and two in our lavender bush.

Day 28. A garden night safari! Out I went with my bat detector and torch to see what I could find. Unfortunately no bats seen (or heard), but I did find some cool spiders (that didn’t like the light), a large garden snail, and lots of micro moths amongst the long grass.

Day 29. After a day in the office I was heading to London to attend the People’s Trust for Endangered Species 40th birthday celebrations, so I had a quick trip to Hyde Park before the event. It was packed full of people, but it didn’t take long to find a wilder spot with longer grass and some lovely trees, including a lovely weeping beech tree!

Day 30. Today I headed to a nearby chalk pit to look for glow worms, and managed to find two glowing females! Beautiful!

Glow worm

June is now over, but I know that I’ll continue to have random acts of wildness! If you’d like to get involved, there are loads of great tips on the Wildlife Trusts website, here.